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NBA Live 08

NBA Live 08 is the latest installment in Electronic Arts (EA) Sports' basketball video game franchise. The game is a multi-platform release for Microsoft Xbox 360, Personal Computer, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, Sony PlayStation 2, and Sony PlayStation Portable. This review covers the PS3 version.

There are a couple major differences between the PS2 and the PS3 versions. First, the PS2 graphics are stripped down to its high-definition counterpart. As such, the visual do not look very good and the game play does not appear as smooth or natural. On that note, the PS3 version still has its issues with "gracefulness". While the character models are pretty sharp looking, their movement sometime looks clumsy and out of sync with reality. Referring back to the PS2 version; there is some good news about its limited visual capabilities. It has the capability for 480p progressive scan output. The 480p output is sharper, but still nowhere near as good as the PS3 version.

Second, the PS3 version does not have as many gaming modes as the PS2 version. The PS3 version does not include "Season", "Playoffs", "Slam Dunk School", "1on1", or "Freestyle Challenges". On the flipside, the PS3 version has more extensive online multi-player gaming options. The PS2 only supports up to 2 human players, while the PS3 version has the capability of up to 4 (system) and 8 (online). However, a patch is forthcoming that will allow up to 10 players in 1-on-1 to 5-on-5.

PS2/PS3 version aside, NBA Live 08 has the right level of game play for a basketball game. For the most part, it plays out fluidly with easy to learn controls and an exciting gaming experience for basketball fans. Here is a breakdown of the different modes included for the PS3 version:

  • Play Now: is the basic exhibition mode. It is a standard 5-on-5 match where you can pick the teams (or use a random set), choose the starting five, the players from a fixed roster, select the venue, and other related options. In short, it is the quickest way to a 5-on-5 match without the concerns of team management. Play against the CPU or friends.
  • Dynasty Mode: is where you take on the hat as general manager. This mode is the most comprehensive and complex, requiring you to really put thought into the development of your franchise. You will need to recruit a coaching staff, negotiate player contracts, satisfy the team owner, conduct team management, build team chemistry, etc. It is similar to other EA Sports games. For single-player gaming, you will probably spend most of your time here.
  • NBA All-Star Weekend: is a collection of different games/challenges. They include "Rookie Challenge", a team of rookie players face off with a team of sophomores, "3 Point Shootout", score as many 3 pointers in sixty seconds as possible, "Slam Dunk Contest", fight your way through a slam dunk competition, and "NBA All-Star Game", a match between the eastern and the western all-star teams.
  • FIBA World Championship: is a tournament mode, where you can play as one of eight international teams (or a franchise team) for the world title. The teams included are Argentina, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, China, Spain, and USA.

  • Quick Pick Play: is a fast way to get a b-ball game going. It is different from the play now mode because it allows you to pick your fantasy roster prior to the match.
  • Scenario Play: is a pretty cool mode that allows you to create your own tough (or easy) scenarios. The idea is that you can define the conditions in a match to set the time remaining, score, number of fouls, timeouts remaining, etc. You can also play a randomly created scenario.
  • Play Online: is the multi-player option that provides NBA Live 08 gamers with the ability to go online and compete against friends and strangers. You can compete in ranked and unranked games. The online match system will try to find a game that matches your skill/style. This PS3 version offers more online competition and options than its Sony relatives (PS2 and PSP). There is support for up to four players in a match, online leagues, quick pick play, and ranked/unranked games.

  • My NBA Live 08: provides access to unlock game specials (like new shoes and tattoos) by entering NBA codes, team management, creation zone (create/edit/delete custom players), manage EA Sports Trax, modify user profiles, and change game settings. There is also an online "My NBA Live 08" option that allows you to customize and access online related information (leaderboards, news, play history, etc.)
  • Practice Mode: is started by default. After the game boots up, you are taken into a practice mode. Here you can control a player and do whatever you feel like on the court. To get in a real game, simply press the menu button to select a different mode.

Overall, NBA Live 08 has strong game play and controls that feel pretty fluid and are easy to pick up. Live 08's single-player modes also offer a solid experience in NBA team management, covering several different aspects from contract management to team chemistry.

Another strength of NBA Live 08 that was not previously mentioned is the notion of Go-To Players and Go-To Teams. The Go-To's are specific players or squads that develop a strong chemistry while on the court. They will become really good at performing certain tasks on the court or playing against specific teams. They'll get automatic boosts in performance and do better than normal. There is also a really cool strategy planning feature, where you can view all kinds of interesting information at the end of a match. The information details where shots were taken on the court, the balance of ball possession, and other statistics that are useful to understanding what went well and what didn't go well. Use this strategic data to improve your game.

As for the technical aspects, NBA Live 08 (PS3) has great visuals and audio. While it is limited to 720p (the PS3 is capable of outputting 1080p), the graphics are still look very good. Details are drawn well with character models, court details, audiences, menus, etc. looking clean and crisp. It is really impressive to see how advanced gaming. The only real issue I had was the flow of the character models. For the most part they look fluid in motion, but there are occasions when it just looks clumsy. For audio, the game has solid play-by-play commentary.

In the end, NBA Live 08 is strong for a basketball game. This PS3 version is a great experience for those looking for a solid high definition basketball game. The graphics are sharp and the controls are very fluid. The real disappointment about this version is the lack of different modes and mini-games. While there fairly strong support for multi-player gaming, for those of us who prefer single-player modes, we're missing out on quite a bit. Still, the controls and superb graphics outweigh the limited looking PS2 version.